The Time and Place of the Transfiguration
ABSTRACT: This speculative article proposes that the
Transfiguration of Jesus occurred on Mt.
Nebo, Sunday April 20,
six days after Passover April 14, AD 32 about three weeks following the feeding
of the 5000. The 5000 were fed when
Passover was “near”. Standard
chronologies place the Transfiguration around the feast of Tabernacles
six-months later, on or near Mt.
confession was on Passover and prefigures the identification of the Messiah for
Crucifixion and the Transfiguration prefigures the Resurrection.
Copyright Ó 2001 Bruce Alan Killian. email bakillian at earthlink.net
to index updated 2001 File: www.scripturescholar.com/EasterTransfiguration.htm
See www.scripturescholar.com/Jesus2YearMinistry.htm for the chronological
context of the transfiguration.
approximate time of the Transfiguration can be discerned from the following
information—In John 6:4 we are told, ‘the Jewish Passover feast was near’. This Passover was one year before Jesus’
final Passover. The author understands “Passover was near” to mean that the
month of Nisan/Abib was starting. Jesus
that day fed 5000 men. That night Jesus spent in prayer then before dawn he
walked across the Sea of Galilee in a
storm. The next day in Capernaum Jesus
declared that we must eat his body and drink his blood. Most who heard this
message rejected it. After this
rejection, Jesus appears to turn his ministry to the gentiles for a time. He
then rather that preparing to go down to Jerusalem
for the Passover,
journeyed northwest (20-50 miles) to the region of Tyre
and Sidon and
healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman of great faith.
Jesus then journeyed back to the Sea of Galilee and onto the Decapolis
There he spent three days
with, and fed 4000 men (probably gentiles)
and then sent them away. Jesus then
crossed the Sea of Galilee to Magadan or
where he encounters Pharisees and Sadducees looking for a sign. They again
journeyed to the other side where Jesus healed a blind man in Bethsaida
(near the northern end of the Sea of Galilee). These events and travel took nearly two
weeks. Then Jesus and the apostles journeyed 25 miles north to the region of
Caesarea Philippi, where Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of
Then Jesus started to directly predict his crucifixion.
Jesus had been doing this bit of traveling so that he came under that clause
that permitted one to miss the Passover in Nisan and instead go in the second
month if he was on a journey. Jesus by this time was well recognized and
there was a constant threat to his life by the religious leaders. To have gone
for this feast would have precipitated his crucifixion a year early. They went
in the second month when they could go secretly. The transfiguration occurs six days after
Peter’s confession. Now it is likely that Elijah was taken up from the same
mountain that Moses died on, Mt.
Nebo also known as
Pizgah. Mt. Nebo
is about a hundred miles south of Caesarea Philippi and 20 miles east of Jericho near the Dead Sea.
two weeks had passed since Jesus fed the 5000. Peter’s confession was on Monday
Nisan 14 Passover AD 32 at Caesarea Philippi. Taken together the identification
of Jesus as the Messiah or the Christ on the day of Passover prefigured Jesus’
dying as the Messiah on Passover a year later.
The transfiguration on Sunday during the night prefigured the
resurrection on Easter Sunday one-year later.
Jesus did not talk plainly about his crucifixion, death, or resurrection
until after Peter’s confession. Over a
year earlier when Jesus accepted his first disciples, Andrew told Peter that he
had found the Messiah (John 1:41) and Nathaniel had confessed that Jesus was
the Son of God (John 1:49). Peter’s
confession was highlighted not because of what he said—I believe all the
disciples had the same opinion by this point—it was who prompted him to say it
and when he said it. Here also Jesus
first directly predicted his rejection & crucifixion.
Jesus and the Apostles traveled 90
miles south, Tuesday through Friday to near Jericho.
They spent the Sabbath resting and the next day Jesus, Peter, James, and
John journeyed about 20 miles to the top of Mt. Nebo/Pizgah, where they spent
the night in prayer. While Jesus was in
prayer maybe at midnight on Sunday Nisan 20, the sixth day after Peter’s
confession, Jesus’ three disciples were very sleepy, when Jesus was
transfigured before their eyes. If the transfiguration spanned midnight, it may
explain Luke’s estimate of about 8 days. The quartet rested up from their night
in prayer and in the afternoon Monday, Nisan 21
journeyed back to rendezvous with the rest of the apostles near Jericho. Here they encountered a large crowd,
which were the pilgrims from Galilee returning from the Passover week in Jerusalem. Jesus and the disciples then accompanied the
people back to Galilee and Capernaum.
Then Peter was asked about the Temple
tax—This tax was normally paid before the feast of Passover. Since they were
not in Jerusalem,
they had not paid the tax. Sunday of Passover week was the Omer or wave
offering when the first fruits of the harvest was offered to God in the Temple allowing the barley
harvest to begin.
Could it be that two different ways of calculating the Passover had to do with
a misconception that the day started in the evening on the part of the Jews
while those in Galilee took the proper view
that the day started at midnight. Maybe this was necessary to have the proper
time for Passover and the official time for Passover.
Mt. Nebo for the Transfiguration? Moses died on Mt Nebo (Deut. 34:1,7). Elijah was headed in the direction of Mt. Nebo
when he as taken and Jeremiah hid the tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Nebo.
In 2 Kings 2:1 Elijah starts from Gilgal in the hill country of Ephraim. He
went about 8 miles south to Bethel.
From there, he journeyed 13 miles east-southeast (ESE) to Jericho. From there, he continued on to the Jordan, if he continued ESE he came to the Jordan at 7
miles. He crossed the Jordan
on dry land and continued. If he continued ESE in 14 miles, he would reach the
summit of Mt. Nebo also known as Pizgah. This is
speculative scenario, but is possible and even likely. Jeremiah hid the
tabernacle, the altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Nebo.
If Moses and Elijah both departed from Mt. Nebo
how appropriate, that Jesus’ departure discussed there. Peter called the mount
of transfiguration a holy mountain—and
Maccabees states Mt. Nebo was sanctified to God or made holy.
It is also stated that the majesty of the Lord
shall appear, and there shall be a cloud as it was also shown to
Moses. These events fit the transfiguration—the disciples saw Jesus’ majesty
and the cloud.
Jesus and the apostles then
journeyed four days, about 90 miles south, then they rested near the Jericho on the
Sabbath. The next day the
transfiguration occurred—Sunday Omer/Easter
Went to a high mountain to pray—could they have prayed all night.
Transfiguration occurred “as he was praying”.—Peter
and his companions were very sleepy—an indication that the transfiguration
occurred during the night—when they came fully awake they saw.
The request to build
shelters could imply a place to sleep as opposed to a tabernacle for the feast
of Booths. This mention by Peter of
booths has caused commentators to place this event near the feast of Booths or
Tabernacles in the fall. The feast of
Tabernacles must be celebrated in Jerusalem
not on some high mountain, six days or less journey from Caesarea
Philippi. This mountain is normally
taken to be on or near Mt.
Hermon, which dominated
the area around that town. Peter’s mention of booths has no connection with the
feast of booths. In the gospel of John, the feast of Tabernacles follows the
feeding of the 5000. But we know from Matthew’s gospel that Jesus returned to Capernaum immediately
following the Transfiguration incident because there was an attempt to collect
the two-drachma tax.
This tax was normally paid before Passover.
Therefore, this cannot be occurring just before the feast the feast of
Tabernacles because they leave from here and go to Capernaum
rather than Jerusalem.
It cannot be occurring after the feast because they are all the way up in
Caesarea Philippi and have spent at least two weeks traveling about.
The Holy Mountain
There are a number of
Scripture references that would lead us to connect the transfiguration with a
holy mountain. Peter says, We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven
when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Jeremiah said this place [where the ark was hidden] shall remain unknown until
God gather together the congregation of the people and receive them to mercy.
And then the Lord shall show these things, and the majesty of the Lord shall
appear, and there shall be a cloud as it was also shown to Moses,
and he showed it when Solomon prayed that the place might be sanctified
to the great God.
Luke 9:37 the next day when
they came down from the mountain they were met by a large crowd. Now was this on the Monday Nisan 21 the last
day of unleavened bread? Or was it rather the first day after unleavened bread
when the crowds of people would be returning to Galilee via the Jordan. I propose the latter. This would mean that
Peter’s confession, travel, and transfiguration.
A Psalm Jesus may have
prayed at this time Vindicate me, O God, and plead
my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked
men. 2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go
about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? 3 Send forth your light and your
truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to
the place where you dwell. 4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God,
my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. 5 Why
are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Father indicated to Jesus who his successor was to be—Peter. Peter succeeded
Jesus as the head of the Church as now Jesus announced that he will die—once
the successor was chosen. The Jewish leadership were very much oppressing Jesus
at this time and after he came to the holy mountain he went to the altar of God
where he sacrificed himself on the cross.
crowds at Tabernacles in AD 32 and at Passover in AD 33 asked “will Jesus show
up?” is one of the indications that he did not show the previous Passover. John
11:56 What do you think, is he coming to the feast at all? John 11:57 If Jesus
was seen he was to be reported.
following the Sabbath of Passover week was the Lag B’Omer or Omer the say the
first fruit of the barley harvest was offered to God in the Temple. Once this was done the people were
allowed to harvest and eat the new harvest.
This feast was also call the first fruits, Jesus was resurrected as first
fruits to God. His ascension to the Father apparently had to wait for the grain
to be waved in the Temple.